New APUSH framework is ‘flat-out good’

College Board has released a new Advancement Placement U.S. History (APUSH) framework in response to critics. The rewritten framework isn’t just better, writes Rick Hess and Max Eden in National Review. It’s “flat-out good.”

World War II wasn't just about interning Japanese-Americans.

World War II wasn’t just about interning Japanese-Americans.

The 2014 APUSH framework was “an unqualified mess,” they write.

“Larry Krieger, a retired high-school history teacher, was the first to flag the single-minded focus on American wrongdoing, racial division, and left-wing heroics,” write Hess and Eden. Stanley Kurtz attacked the framework’s politicization of history.

After first dismissing the criticism, College Board “reached out to critics, solicited feedback from the public, promised that the framework would be reworked for 2015 — and asked to be judged on the result,” write Hess and Eden. The new framework is completely rewritten in a “more measured, historically responsible manner.”

In the section on World War II, the 2014 framework highlighted:

Wartime mobilization provided economic opportunities for women and minorities; American values were compromised by the atomic bomb and the internment of Japanese Americans; and the Allies won owing to our combined industrial strength.

. . . In the 2015 version, the first bullet now reads: “Americans viewed the war as a fight for the survival of freedom and democracy against fascist and militarist ideologies. This perspective was later reinforced by revelations about Japanese wartime atrocities, Nazi concentration camps, and the Holocaust.” The framework still notes the internment of Japanese Americans and the moral complexities of dropping the atomic bomb, but these are now situated in a broader, more textured tale.

In 2014, the first of seven organizing themes was “Identity” — with an “emphasis on race and gender grievances,” they write. Now the theme is “American and National Identity.” It deals with “our shared history — with racial divides and gender politics presented as one part of that larger story.”

The framework now addresses economic growth and American entrepreneurialism where before the only economics to speak of consisted of allusions to inequality and exploitation.

Astonishingly, discussion of religion and its import was largely absent in 2014. That is no longer the case.

Whereas in the 2014 framework one could be forgiven for thinking that the Declaration of Independence was consequential only insofar as it inspired rebellion in Haiti, the new framework makes clear that the Declaration “resonated throughout American history, shaping Americans’ understanding of the ideals on which the nation was based.”

A half-million students take APUSH every year. Their teachers now have an “honest, fair-minded framework for teaching the grand sweep of American history,” conclude Hess and Eden. “There is no effort to paper over the darker chapters of America’s past or its continuing struggle to live up to our founding ideals (nor should there be!) — but these are now presented alongside our nation’s ideals and staggering accomplishments.”

The new framework is better, but still flawed, writes Kurtz, who thinks College Board needs competition. The new AP European History framework has all the anti-West bias of the 2014 APUSH, he adds.

Oklahoma could defund AP U.S. History

The newly revised Advanced Placement U.S. History (aka APUSH) framework slights American heroes, say conservative critics. Others say it’s moved left to match college history teaching.

College Board, which runs AP, provided a practice exam in a response to critics.

The APUSH framework focuses on what’s “bad about America,” Dan Fisher, a state legislator in Oklahoma, tells KOSU. There’s little about the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, he complains. “The founders are hardly even mentioned. In fact, there’s one sentence out of George Washington’s farewell address, and it’s basically spun negatively.”

He’s introduced a bill that could bar state funding for APUSH courses, if the state Board of Education decides it violates state guidelines.

The bill lists primary documents that must be taught in all the state’s U.S. history classrooms, reports Newsweek. These include Patrick Henry’s “give me liberty or give me death” speech, John Winthrop’s “city on a hill” sermon and Jonathan Edwards’ sermon on “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”

The revised APUSH is an “attempt to have teachers stop chasing trivia, teacher Christine Custred told KOSU. Teachers can choose what documents to teach.

Common Core opponents led the charge against APUSH, notes the Tulsa World. During committee discussion of the bill, Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, said she’s asked the state Attorney General to rule on whether AP courses violate last year’s Core repeal law by imposing a national curriculum.

Update: In response to criticism, Fisher will rewrite the “very poorly worded” bill, he told the Oklahoman. His goal is “not to hurt AP,” he said.

Push back on APUSH

The new Advanced Placement U.S. History framework, known as APUSH, doesn’t give students the tools to analyze history, writes Robert L. Paquette, a history professor.

The broad appeal of Howard Zinn’s Marxist baby-talk in AP history classes stems not only from the appeal of  the politics of the his best-selling People’s History of the United States to activist teachers, but its service in easing bored and indifferent students through the past by personalizing and simplifying it through trivialization.  The current emphasis on “identities” often boils down in the classroom to the instructor’s attempt to get the students to empathize with the personal feelings of a favored group of historical actors extracted from the ranks of the oppressed.  While these voices may elicit students’ sympathy, perhaps even guilt, they do little to enhance understanding of the proper yardsticks by which the past must be measured so that it does not become vulgarized.

APUSH treatment of race, class, and gender reflects “presentism,” Paquette writes.

Forms of prejudice like ethnocentrism, which can be seen as universal phenomenon, appear to be a debility that largely afflicted persons of European descent. On one page of a unit dealing with European expansion, for example, the authors assert that Spanish and Portuguese explorers had “little experience dealing with people who were different from themselves.”  Compared to whom?  Kongos?  Aztecs?  Catawbas?

For many high achievers, AP U.S. history will be their last American history course, writes Paquette.

Explaining the American Revolution

On the US History Teachers Blog, Ken Halla recommends this video.

AP U.S. History: Has it moved left?

Critics of the new AP U.S. history framework have gone overboard, writes Rick Hess, a former history teacher.

Benjamin Franklin and Martin Luther King weren’t removed: The old framework didn’t mention historical figures, except for a few presidents, and the new one follows suit. The Constitution and Declaration of Independence are still there.

But he’s concerned about the lack of “attention to America’s motivating ideals or to the resulting governing institutions.”

In the new framework, the only mention that the American Revolution might have had any historical significance is a clause mentioning that it had “reverberations in France, Haiti, and Latin America.” There is little or no discussion of the intermediary institutions that are so critical to American culture, society, and government.

While the standards talk often about ethnic and gender identity, I don’t see any room for a discussion of whether there emerged any kind of distinct American “identity.”

There’s little about economics that’s not about government efforts to combat injustice. Students are introduced to decade after decade of American depravity, but there’s nothing to offer context for 20th century U.S. international engagements.

Democratic presidents are lauded, while Republicans are criticized.  “Where FDR and LBJ are warriors for justice, Reagan is described as a man of ‘bellicose rhetoric’.”

Social history — “as distilled by professors with a taste for 21st century identity politics” — drives the framework.

Critics should communicate their concerns and give the College Board “a chance to act,” Hess concludes.

Here’s a practice exam.

AP’s version of U.S. history must reflect how it’s taught by university professors, writes Checker Finn on Education Gadfly. If it deviates too much, colleges will deny credit. That means “every philosophical, pedagogical, and political fad to overwhelm the faculties of today’s post-modern campuses will creep into the courses taught to sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds.”  

. . . ask yourself whether the collegiate version of U.S. history—warts and all, with emphasis on the warts—is what you want kids to learn about the nation’s past while in elementary, middle, and high school. Might it not be more important for them to internalize basic chronology, fundamental events, key people, and major accomplishments than to agonize about the injustices and downtrodden of bygone years?

College Board says students learn all that before taking AP U.S. history. But do they?

What are the best ‘Schoolhouse Rock’ songs?


An ABC special on Sept. 7, The ABC’s of Schoolhouse Rock, will rank the series’ all-time best songs, writes Kristen Baldwin on Entertainment Weekly.

The Chandra Wilson-hosted special will feature interviews with the creators and writers of the Emmy-winning series, which ran from 1973 to 1985.

I’m Just a BillConjunction Junction, and maybe even Interplanet Janet are favorites, writes Baldwin, who’s voting for Sufferin’ till Suffrage.

I like No More Kings. What’s your favorite?

Critics: New AP U.S. history has no heroes

Washington Crossing the Delaware as painted by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze.

College Board’s new framework for Advanced Placement U.S. History “inculcates a consistently negative view of American history by highlighting oppressors and exploiters while ignoring the dreamers and innovators who built our country,” charge conservatives.

Instead of striving to build a “City upon a Hill,” as generations of students have been taught, the colonists are portrayed as bigots who developed “a rigid racial hierarchy” that was in turn derived from “a strong belief in British racial and cultural superiority.” The Framework . . . omits the colonists’ growing commitment to religious freedom and the emergence of a pluralistic society that lacked an entrenched aristocracy.

. . .  the Framework makes no mention of the sacrifices America’s Greatest Generation made to rescue much of the world from a long night of Nazi and Japanese tyranny. Instead, the Framework focuses solely on the negative aspects of America’s involvement in the war:  “the internment of Japanese Americans, challenges to civil liberties, debates over race and segregation, and the decision to drop the atomic bomb raised questions about American values.”

Heroes such as Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Dwight Eisenhower, Jackie Robinson, Jonas Salk, Neil Armstrong, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are not mentioned in the document, charge critics. But it has “space for Chief Little Turtle, the Students for a Democratic Society, and the Black Panthers.”

In response to the criticism, the College Board released a practice exam — to everyone, not just certified AP teachers — and promised to “clarify” the framework.

“Our founders are resonant throughout” the exam, wrote College Board President David Coleman wrote. “Just like the previous framework, the new framework does not remove individuals or events that have been taught by AP teachers in prior years. Instead, it is just a framework, requiring teachers to populate it with content required by their local standards and priorities.”

The practice exam is here.

The First Vote by A.R. Waud

The First Vote by A.R. Waud

Questions ask students to interpret quotes by George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson. Other questions deal with immigration, women’s rights and urban poverty.

One question asks students to analyze an image:

a) Briefly explain the point of view expressed through the image about ONE of the following.
• Emancipation
• Citizenship
• Political participation

b) Briefly explain ONE outcome of the Civil War that led to the historical change depicted in the image.

c) Briefly explain ONE way in which the historical change you explained in part b was challenged in the period between 1866 and 1896.

Teach the American dream

“As Congress moves towards opening new paths for immigrants, it should find a way to restore the foundation of American citizenship — the self-confident teaching of American history in our nation’s schools, writes Christina Hoff Sommers in The American.

The immigration bill will reaffirm “quintessential American values” and restore “the American dream,” writes Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet.
But “few of our students — foreign or native born — know much about the provenance of those values,” writes Sommers. “Our schools no longer teach the American dream.”

Once, immigrant and native-born children learned about America in school, “and came to view themselves as part of an extraordinary culture of liberty,” she writes. That civic mission has been neglected.

The latest Department of Education national history assessment (2010) shows that only 12 percent of American high school seniors have a firm grasp of U.S. history. More than half (55 percent) scored below the “Basic” achievement level. A 2012 Roper survey of college graduates found widespread ignorance about U.S. history and basic functions of government: only 17 percent of those polled, for example, could identify famous words from the Gettysburg Address or knew the effects of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Noting a 2009 study that found that 39 percent of Americans could not name a single right protected by the First Amendment, civil libertarian Greg Lukianoff has described us as a nation in the process of “unlearning liberty.”

We are perilously close to testing Thomas Jefferson’s famous admonition: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

The National Assessment of Educational Progress exams in civics, U.S. history, and geography have been indefinitely postponed for fourth and twelfth graders, reports Heartland. The Obama administration blames a $6.8 million sequestration budget cut. The three exams will be replaced by a new test on Technology and Engineering Literacy.

“Without these tests, advocates for a richer civic education will not have any kind of test to use as leverage to get more civic education in the classrooms,” said John Hale, associate director at the Center for Civic Education.

Be it remembered!

From Slate‘s Vault, here’s how the Philadelphia Freeman’s Journal reported the Svictory in the Revolutionary War. “Laus Deo!” means “praise be to God!”

Front Page

We hold these truths . . .